Investigator Awards for the 2012-2013 Year

When a medical researcher is intrigued by a question that may lead to a breakthrough in knowledge and treatment, the first step is often the most difficult: obtaining funding to collect data to prove the research shows promise.

Since 1995, the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center’s Investigator Awards Program has provided a stepping stone between bright ideas and promising proof that may help researchers compete for national grants.

For 2012-2013, private donors contributed more than $300,000 to fund investigator awards for research projects for UA Sarver Heart Center members. This year, the awards support the work of researchers at various career levels, from pre-doctoral candidates to professors in numerous departments in the UA College of Medicine-Tucson.

The following recipients received awards under several research categories.

Novel Research Projects in the Area of Cardiovascular Disease and Medicine

Christopher Pappas, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in cellular and molecular medicine, received awards from the families of Stephen Michael Schneider and Frank Frazer and “Alex” Frazer for his project: “Elucidating the Cause of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in the Lmod2 Knockout Mouse.” His mentor is Carol Gregorio, PhD, co-director of the UA Sarver Heart Center and professor of molecular, cell biology and anatomy.

Jingjing Liu, MD, PhD, research associate, received an award made possible by Florence Jaffe to study the “Function of S1P Signaling on HDL Cholesterol Efflux,” under the mentorship of Hussein Yassine, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine, Section of Endocrinology.

Janet Funk, MD, associate professor of medicine (research scholar track), will use the J.G. Murray Award for her study of the “Efficacy of a Botanical Dietary Supplement in Lowering Cardiovascular Risk in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM).”

James Nguyen, MD, a cardiovascular disease fellow, will use the Doris Griswold Award to study theCharacterization of LV Strain Patterns in Patients with Elevated Left Atrial Pressure and Pulmonary Hypertension.” His mentor is Aiden Abidov, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and radiology.

Dr. Abidov received the William and Dorothy Shaftner Award for his research project: “Double Inversion Radial Fast Spin Echo T2 Mapped Cardiac MRI in Acute MI Population for the Prediction of Short-term Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events.”

Michael Teodori, MD, clinical professor of surgery and director of Pediatric and Adult Congenital Heart Surgery, is the recipient of the Marjorie Hornbeck Award for his project: “Wireless Screening of Rheumatic Mitral Valve Disease in the Developing World.”

Alexander Simon, PhD, associate professor of physiology, is the recipient of the Anthony and Mary Zoia Award for his project: “Role of Connexins in Venous Valve Development.”

Pediatric/Congenital Heart Disease Awards

Ornella Selmin, PhD, research associate professor in nutritional sciences, received the Walter and Vinnie Hinz Award to study environmental sensitivity in the developing heart.

Jess L. Thompson, MD, MSc, assistant professor of surgery, will use the William “Billy” Gieszl Award for his project: “Parental and Sibling Distress in Families Caring for Children with Congenital Heart Disease.”

Heart Failure

An anonymous donor made possible two awards that support research focusing on heart failure. Raymond Runyan, PhD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine, will study “Novel Mediators of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition in Cardiac Fibrosis.” Qin Chen, PhD, professor of pharmacology, will study “Nrf2 as a Cardiac Protective Gene.”

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Research Grants

Paul Krieg, PhD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine, is the recipient of the Steven M. Gootter Foundation Award, which will support his project: “Cap2 Function during Cardiac Sarcomere Development.”

Heart Disease in Women Research Grants

Gifts from the Tucson Community will support the research of Betsy Dokken, NP, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, who is studying “Coronary Microvascular Dysfunction in Diabetic Women of Color: Treatment with Glucagon-like Peptide-1.”

The following researchers received awards that will support their projects for multiple years.

John Kanady, BS, a pre-doctoral candidate in physiological sciences, will receive support for two years from the Finley and Florence Brown Endowed Research Award. Under the mentorship of Alexander Simon, PhD, associate professor of physiology, Kanady will study “Connexin Expression and Intercellular Coupling of Cardiac Telocytes.”

John Konhilas, PhD, assistant professor of physiology, received the Edward and Virginia Madden Award, which is renewable for two years to support his project: “Impact of Pro-biotic Administration on an Acute Coronary Event.”